Getting older, or, it’s not fair but nobody said it would be

So nobody promised it would be fair. I get that. In fact, I use that line with my teenage daughters All The Time. No one signed a contract, no one provided disclaimers in 5-point type for wiggle room, no one made any promises whatsoever. But still.

I’m 46 as of yesterday. Here are three things I thought when I was younger that I now know to be wrong.

1) There will be a break between pimples and wrinkles.

Not true. The “facial evidence of accumulated wisdom” does not create a protective barrier that prevents breakouts, and pimples don’t magically stop appearing just because you get some “character” in your face.

The various things you can use for blemishes dry out your skin and make the wrinkles look worse; the moisturizer you need for the wrinkles encourages break-outs. Since all skin products for any age are just hope in a bottle and have few real effects, there’s no magic answer. On the bright side, I’m saving lots of money by not buying skin care products, other than that one bottle of Oil of Olay Regenerist because some web site said that it did actually have a marginal effect, and it costs a lot less than the other ones on the shelf at Rite-Aid. Effects so far? Not so’s I’ve noticed, but hey, keep hope alive.

2) If you’re nearsighted, then when you start getting old-age farsightedness, your eyesight will improve.

Wow, SO not true. I’ve worn glasses since I was five, got contacts for my 13th birthday (the old hard plastic kind that you had to acclimate to one hour at a time over a painful two-week period), had radial keratotomy when I was 21, and am still a -11 in my left eye and -10.5 in my right eye, with some astigmatism as a side effect of the RK. An eye doctor once told me this level of myopia would qualify me as legally blind if it weren’t correctible.

All my life in order to read or examine something with lots of fine detail, I have brought it right up to my face about an inch away from my eyeballs if I'm not wearing my contacts or glasses. Now, of course, I have to move things away from my face in order to bring them into focus.

When I work at the computer or read, I wear cheaters if I have my contacts in. My prescription glasses actually work pretty well, probably because they correct for the astigmatism in a way my contacts can’t (because at my high-diopter prescription level, astigmatism correction isn’t available—am I really that special? It's like needing an orphan drug or something).

The beneficial side effect of all this is that I’m not buying any food products with tiny, tiny print on the label, because I like knowing what I’m eating. This pretty much eliminates all processed foods, not that I ate too many of those to begin with. Saved from high-fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils by old-age eyes.

3) I won’t turn into my mother. Ever.


I did manage to do some things differently in raising my own daughters. As I read somewhere once, you only have two options in parenting: being your parents, or being not your parents (yes, that’s written correctly).

Since “not your parents” is a vast and unknown territory, you have no guideposts when you enter that strange land. You’re bound to get lost and wander around, trampling randomly underfoot the fragile wildflowers and rare endangered creatures, AKA making a whole new batch of mistakes different in kind but not in scope from the ones for which you blame your own parents.

In my case, I did some things differently/”right” (in my view, because after all I’m The Mom So I Decide): being more open with the facts of life, talking with them honestly about my own feelings and life mistakes, being closer, hugging more.

My reward has been that my daughters—unlike me at their age—don’t appear to consider it sport to be sarcastic and make their mother cry. They do spend a lot of time sequestered in their bedrooms playing music I don’t care for and talking to their friends on the phone(s) for hours, so they are like me at that age. (At one point about ten years ago, I remember apologizing to my mother for my brattiness at around age 16 and 17, and telling her that her revenge on me was that I have two daughters.)

But I recognize that when this strange new landscape overwhelms a bit, I scurry back to the familiar signposts of my childhood, open my mouth, and my mother’s words come out.

Also, there’s the part where her hands stick out of my sleeves and her voice and laugh come out of my face. That’s not that bad, since she was and is pretty cheerful (despite the dementia). And now my voice and laugh are coming out of my daughters’ mouths (particularly Eldest Daughter, although all three of us have an identical laugh at times).